Problem Solving: How to help others
Recently on Facebook, someone gave advice to a person who wanted commit suicide, he was all positive and giving nice advice and when to his shock the guy lashed out at him and got angry. He responded in turn and the conversation ended with him saying “Ya you do suck. Maybe you should kill yourself”
All of us can remember a time when we were trying to help and give advice only to have it blow up in our face. When that happens we feel self righteous and that the other person is completely unreasonable. We are the ones making a huge mistake though. Just because we meant well doesn’t mean our actions are just. Being a good person is a skill, it’s not simply a matter of wanting to be.
Giving advice without first trying to understand and empathize with the person is a mistake. Giving advice to someone from a position of superiority when he doesn’t accept that inferior position is a mistake. Giving advice before it is asked for and before trying to help them come to their own decision is a mistake. If you understand these are mistakes the Facebook situation is not only understandable but completely predictable. This guy made every mistake in the book. He didn’t ask why he felt that way or what happened, what methods he tried, he didn’t tell a similar story to him (empathy). he wasn’t asked for his advice, and he had no reason to assume the position of superiority.
Advice that comes from superiority is fine if the other person grants it to you. If you’re a professional X giving advice to someone on X isn’t is not going to be unwelcome. Advice doesn’t have to come from superiority it can come from a place of empathy. When you admit to making the same or similar mistakes and relate stories that express that and the steps you took to improve it’s impossible for the other person to get defensive or feel inferior.
It’s hard to have empathy if you don’t understand why people do what they do. This is a whole other chapter though. Most of the time people would rather be understood and empathized with rather than advised. Learn to listen intently and ask questions with the aim of understanding them better and/or helping them come to the right conclusion. How to do this is once again a whole other chapter. Advice is either asked for or comes at the end or better yet not at all.
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